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WALL-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifters -- Earth Class, and the film is about a future in which Earth has become so overrun by trash that it’s uninhabitable for humans. 700 years before the movie takes place, the entire human race lives in an orbiting space ship, and sends robots down to the planet to clean it up. Flash to the present, and the project has failed. Only one robot is left on Earth still at work cleaning the place, and his name is WALL-E. WALL-E, a robot, spends every day doing what he was made for. But soon, he will discover what he was meant for.
It’s a testament to the amount of faith Disney must have in the newly acquired guys of Pixar that they’re letting them actually make and release this movie. Not because it’s about robots. If last summer’s Transformers box office has taught us anything, it’s that robots are an easy sell. Once they graduate from dinosaurs, every little kid wants his own robot, and WALL-E is just the right size to feed those pre-adolescent robot fantasies. Robots are no risk, but making a silent movie definitely is.
Pixar is proud of it, and they’ve been pretty open about describing WALL-E as a “space-set remake of a 1931 Charlie Chaplin film about a blind girl wooed by a tramp she mistakenly believes is a rich man.” That’s right, this little robot is a stand in for Chaplin, and rumor has it that a good portion of the film will be almost entirely silent, except for whatever bleeps and boops a humble robot might make alone on an abandoned, garbage dump planet.
Will audiences be able to handle it? At this point does Pixar even care? They’re on a roll which is almost unprecedented in the history of Hollywood, with an unbroken string of both critical and financial hits. Pixar can afford to lose money on one, quirky little art project. If that’s what WALL-E is, I’m sure the industry will get over it, eager to cash in on whatever their next brilliant idea is.
Ultimately though, taking risks like this is what has made Pixar what it is. They’ve always taken chances, pushed the envelope, and it’s paid off. Unlike almost everyone else who’s making family oriented movies, they’re never content to stick with a formula, or shove out a movie full of princesses and singing just because they know kids will shell out money to see it. WALL-E is just another extension of that philosophy, that refusal to conform, that determination to drive for innovation which, hey was once embodied by the Walt Disney run Disney company. Maybe that’s why Disney bought them out, and then handed the keys to the Magic Kingdom over to Pixar’s executives. Pixar is making more than movies, they’re making magic. WALL-E, perhaps more than any of their other recent instant classics, is a symbol of their dare to be different philosophy, and it’s bound to be sprinkled with plenty of Pixar fairy dust.